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Pigs, Queers, and candidates
by Diane Silver - SGN Contributing Writer

As irritating as political campaigns can be, these exercises in advertising and noise can literally change our lives. That's true for all citizens, and doubly true for LGBT Americans.

For all of us, the results of political campaigns determine whether our nation goes to war or stays at peace. Depending on who is elected and how these people govern, our economy fails or survives, Social Security tanks or thrives, and FEMA either helps people after a disaster or is a horrifying joke.

For us Queer folk, the stakes are much higher. We face everything heterosexuals do and then some. Our neighbors vote in referendums on whether or not we can marry and receive the legal rights attached to marriage. Voters in California, Florida, and Arizona are doing that in November. Campaigns determine whether or not we can foster or adopt children - an issue up for a vote this year in Arkansas.

Our rights to fight discrimination and to serve openly in the military, and hundreds of other aspects of our daily lives are either determined by referendum or by the presidents, governors, and lawmakers political campaigns elect.

All of this is why we need to closely watch John McCain and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail. These conservatives appear to be attempting something quite radical. They seem to be rewriting the rules of politics, and they're doing it by jettisoning that silly old idea that truth matters.

Politics isn't Sunday School. Politicians exaggerate. Barack Obama and Joe Biden exaggerate. In past elections, the truth has even been stretched, rather nastily, to the breaking point. The "Swift Boat"-ing of Democrat John Kerry in 2004 taught us how outright lies can work. His military career was twisted beyond recognition. It's worth noting that McCain condemned those attacks at the time.

But the difference between what happened to Kerry and what is happening today is clear. The lies against Kerry were propagated by a group independent of George W. Bush's campaign. Today it's McCain and Palin themselves and their own campaign organization that are distancing themselves from the truth.

I'm not alone in judging McCain and Palin harshly. The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Associated Press, to name a few, have detailed McCain and Palin's truth-busting ways in news stories. In a September 11, 2008, editorial, The New York Times declared that one McCain/Palin ad "flat-out lies." That ad twisted Obama's vote to teach children about the dangers of sexual predators into a vote to teach sex to kindergarteners.

I've worked on political campaigns, and I've never seen anything like this before. Among other topics, McCain lies about Obama's tax plan. McCain says Obama would raise taxes on the middle class. In reality, Obama would lower taxes on 80 percent of taxpayers. Only the richest would pay more.

Palin provides more of the same. There's the whopper about how she rejected the "Bridge to Nowhere" for Alaska. In reality, Palin supported the bridge, kept the money, and only publicly opposed the project when it became a political embarrassment.

There's the bit about how she fights earmarks - the pork Congress sends to cities and states for various projects of sometimes dubious worth.

McCain claimed Palin never sought earmarks or special-interest funding. But even the Wall Street Journal reports that Palin asked for $453 million in earmarks in less than two years as governor. Among the pork Palin requested was funding for a study of seal genetics and $4.5 million for airport upgrades on an island with fewer than 100 year-round residents. As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and raked in nearly $27 million for her town of 5,000.

And then, of course, there's the bit about the pig. When Obama used the old expression about putting "lipstick on a pig" to mock the notion that McCain is an agent of change, McCain produced an ad on the incident.

"It goes on to imply that Obama made a personal dig at Palin, calling her a 'pig,'" said the nonpartisan FactCheck.org, "and that commentators decried his sexism for derailing the campaign. This is bunk."

When confronted with the facts, McCain simply denies them and repeats his fact-breaking talking points, as he did on The View television show in September.

What this means for the future of politics depends on November 4. If McCain and Palin win, they may have transformed politics from an exercise in periodic exaggeration into a constant wallow in deceit. As LGBT Americans, we'll face even nastier campaigns then we do today.

But if McCain and Palin lose, we may have more than one reason to celebrate. Could it be that the GOP will prove, once and for all, that mendacity only leads to defeat?

Diane Silver is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, whose freelance writing has appeared in Ms. magazine, Salon.com, and other national publications. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.

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